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Browns continue to struggle

Published 1:16am Monday, September 16, 2013

BALTIMORE (AP) — Just when it seemed nothing could possibly get worse for the struggling Cleveland Browns offense, Brandon Weeden was forced out of the game with an injured right thumb.

And so, Cleveland’s 11th straight loss to the Baltimore Ravens, 14-6 on Sunday, took an even darker tone.

Not only are the Browns struggling to score — they have one touchdown in two games — but Cleveland could be without its starting quarterback next week. Weeden left late in the fourth quarter after a possession that produced the Browns’ eighth punt.

“I hit it on a helmet on one of the last plays of the drive,” Weeden said. “I found I couldn’t grip the ball, so I had to come out. It really hurts. The X-rays are negative, so that’s a good thing.”

There was nothing good about the way the Browns (0-2) performed on offense. Cleveland failed to score a touchdown and generated only 85 yards of offense in the second half after taking a 6-0 lead into halftime. Receivers dropped several passes and Cleveland twice turned the ball over on downs.

Three times, the offense was called for delay of game — once when they got to the line of scrimmage with about 10 seconds to run a play.

“We’re just off a little bit. The guys are working on it and I feel like there’s improvement being made,” first-year coach Rob Chudzinski said. “But it’s not good enough and it needs to be better. And that’s what we’ll do.”

If Weeden can’t play against Minnesota next week, that could leave Jason Campbell as the starter. In this one, Campbell entered with 3:34 left and Cleveland backed against its own goal line.

“It’s one of the toughest situations to be in,” Campbell said. “But from here on out, you have yourself an opportunity. … I’ll prepare this week like I’m going to be the guy. Hopefully, Weed’s going to be OK. If not, I’m ready.”

Campbell moved Cleveland to its own 28 before the Browns ran out of downs. The Ravens held the ball the rest of the way.

Weeden went 21 for 33 for 227 yards. He was sacked five times.

Down 6-0 at halftime, Baltimore (1-1) took the lead on a 5-yard run by Bernard Pierce with 5:13 left in the third quarter. The Ravens added a touchdown with 8:57 remaining on a 5-yard pass from Joe Flacco to rookie Marlon Brown.

Flacco went 22 for 33 for 211 yards. Just over an hour before kickoff, his wife gave birth to the couple’s second child.

“Anytime you have a child, it’s one of your best days,” Flacco said. “The game didn’t go exactly how we wanted it to, but that’s how we’ve won football games around here. Sometimes you have to do it in an ugly way.”

In the first half, Flacco was 2 for 6 for 9 yards on third down. After halftime, he was 7 for 8 for 87 yards on third down, getting six first downs in the process.

Ravens running back Ray Rice left early in the fourth quarter with a strained hip flexor. He was limited to 36 yards and 13 carries before limping off the field and into the locker room.

Limited to 122 yards in the first half, Baltimore moved 80 yards in 12 plays on their opening possession of the third quarter to take a 7-6 lead. Before Pierce scored, Flacco went 3 for 3, completing all three passes on third down.

The Browns led at halftime after Billy Cundiff kicked field goals of 21 and 51 yards, and Justin Tucker, who replaced Cundiff for the Ravens last season, missed from 50 and 44.

Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor shoved Rice in the facemask after the game’s second play from scrimmage, turning a third-and-13 into a first down. But Tucker misfired to end the 12-play drive.

Cleveland’s first offensive play was a 53-yard pass to Jordan Cameron, setting up Cundiff’s first field goal.

The game’s next eight possessions ended with punts. The trend turned just before halftime, when a 27-yard completion from Flacco to Torrey Smith led to another missed field goal try by Tucker.

Cleveland then moved 33 yards before Cundiff connected with 11 seconds left.

The second half, however, belonged to Baltimore. The Browns made only five first downs after halftime and finished 4 for 15 on third downs.

“We had a great camp, a great preseason,” wide receiver Davone Bess said. “We’re just not making the necessary plays. Third down, we’ve got to be able to own that down, and be able to execute in the critical moments of the game.”

Notes: Ravens DL Chris Canty sustained a groin injury. … Browns LB Quentin Groves sprained his ankle. X-rays were negative. … Ravens CB Chykie Brown strained his knee. … DE Paul Kruger, who left Baltimore to sign as a free agent with Cleveland during the offseason, had three tackles and no sacks.

———

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

 

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